Rep. Ortiz: Wavering and Playing Hard to Get

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Two days before the expected House vote on health care reform, it’s proving tough to budge wavering Democrats off the fence. Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.) says he’s “still undecided.” Ortiz voted for the House’s health care bill last year, but he said couldn’t take a leap of faith that the Senate would pass the changes he wants. (The strategy is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then for the Senate to approve a separate package of fixes sought by House Dems.) And even a deal on abortion might not be enough to bring the anti-choice Texas Democrat on board. 

“We don’t know what they’re going to do, if they’re going to include some of the things that we passed here [in the House],” Ortiz tells Mother Jones. “I’m undecided until I see the product.”

The fate of the health care bill rests on the votes of wavering House Democrats like Ortiz. But when asked what further assurances he needed to sign onto the bill, he seemed to set up a straw man by blaming the upper house. “Most of the members are waiting to see what’s coming from the Senate,” he says. “Some of the changes we want to be sure about are pre-existing conditions, are they going to care about young children, up to age 26—there’s a lot of stuff like that.”

But these items—preventing discrimination by insurance companies against people with pre-existing conditions, and expanding coverage for young people under their parents’ plans—are already in the Senate bill. And the reconciliation package would only strengthen the latter provision. So why is Ortiz holding out? It’s most likely because of his staunch anti-abortion stance. Though he has largely remained mum on the issue, last year Ortiz signed onto the letter by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) demanding changes to the House version of the health care bill last year that would restrict access to abortion. In the final stretch, vote counters suspect Ortiz is a member of Stupak’s anti-abortion bloc—the group of Democrats who claim (wrongly) that the legislation will allow federally funded abortions. (Ortiz’s press secretary did not respond to a request for clarification.)

There are reports that Stupak and his gang may agree to a compromise that would compel the congressional Democratic leadership to pass a separate bill that will tighten restrictions on abortion coverage. Will Ortiz have faith in this non-binding commitment? He says he doesn’t even trust the Senate to pass the amended health-care bill via a reconciliation vote—a relatively safe assumption, given that such a vote needs only 51 Democrats. “We have sent to the Senate already 265 bills that they have never acted on—are they going to act on this one?” he says. And if he won’t trust the Senate to pass the amended health care reform package, it’s questionable whether he’d count on the Democratic leaders’ promise to pass an even more controversial provision restricting abortion coverage.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend